By Charlie Senack –
Doris Jenkins always knew she wanted to join the military.
The service was in her blood, after all. Her father was a drill sergeant during the First World War, so she knew what it was like to live the life of a soldier.
On May 29, 1942, just a few weeks after her 18th birthday, Jenkins enrolled in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and was accepted.
The corps, a non-combatant branch of the Canadian Army for women, was formed on Aug. 13, 1941, with the purpose of releasing men from non-combatant roles in the Canadian armed forces as the country expanded its war effort.
Jenkins – born Doris Allen – started out working in the canteen for the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps before being transferred to a different role stocking supplies. She was discharged from the corps in January 1946 after the war ended and went on to work for the Department of National Defence.
To recognize a lifetime of service to her community and country, the longtime member of the Westboro Legion was celebrated at a ceremony in mid-August that coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.
Looking back at her career in the military, Jenkins, now 95, says she wishes she’d had more opportunities to travel, adding her biggest disappointment was not serving in the Korean War, which ran from 1950-53.
“There were some good times as well as some rough times,” she said. “I had a very nice time. The women were accepted over the men, and I learned a lot.”
Jenkins is believed to be one of only two remaining members of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps residing in Ottawa – coincidentally, both live at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre – and that was one of the main reasons why the celebration took place.
Evelyn Brunton, president and piper for the Westboro Legion, says the organization had always planned to have a celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the corps’ creation, but after hearing that Jenkins wanted to visit the legion – a place where she spent much of her life – the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I really feel that we should be honouring people who have contributed so much to our community and to our organization, and Doris certainly is one of those people,” said Brunton. “She still has vibrant and feisty characteristics that brought her so far.”
The celebration for Jenkins took place on Aug. 13, with the longtime Westboro Legion member being led into the branch’s lounge by Brunton, who played the bagpipes, and four army cadets.
Friends and family gathered there to pay tribute to the woman who dedicated much of her life to giving back to others, with many sharing memories and stories about Jenkins.
“Things have come out of the closet,” she joked. “It feels very good to be honoured in this way – excellent, in fact – and I certainly didn’t expect it.”
Among the family and friends at the celebration was Jenkins’ nephew Royden Richardson, who is also a member of the Westboro Legion. He says he has seen his aunt honoured many times before, so he’s gotten used to it.
Jenkins has received a slew of prestigious honours and distinctions over the years, including the Legion’s Meritorious Service Award, the Order of St. George medallion and a Poppy Campaign appreciation award, to name just a few.
“They say charity starts at home, and it’s true,” said Richardson. “My Aunt Doris has always been a very strong-willed person and a very charming person.”
The ceremony concluded with Jenkins being given a bag of goodies, which included a small bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, Brandy Beans and shortbread cookies – some of the longtime Ottawa resident’s favourites.